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Georgia football defense grabs trio of picks in rout of Ball State

Malaki Starks leaped up and made the interception and headed across the field to celebrate as Georgia football defenders who are responsible for a turnover do.

He put on the spiked ‘Savage Pads’ and stood on the Bulldogs’ bench as teammates celebrated the first of three secondquarter interceptions off Ball State freshman quarterback Kadin Semonza in No. 1 Georgia’s 45-3 victory Saturday.

Starks cradled the ball and kept it as he went across the field, giving it up only when a manger asked for it.

“When I had my first pick against Oregon, somebody told me I should have kept the ball,” Starks said of his first game as a Bulldog to open last season. “So I said when I get another chance, I’m going to try to keep it, but they said I couldn’t keep it. I had to give it back.”

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Outside linebacker Chaz Chambliss and nickelback Tykee Smith grabbed interceptions as well and put on the spikes. Theirs came off deflections.

Hot dog eating king Joey Chestnut, who led the pregame cheer, probably would have had grabbed an interception on this day if he suited up for Georgia the way things were going.

The picks helped set up all three touchdowns scored by the Georgia offense in the first half including with short fields at the Ball State 30 and 20-yard lines.

“When they’re turning the ball over and giving us good field position, we just have to execute and put it in the end zone,” quarterback Carson Beck said.

Chambliss’ interception hit off the leg of Ball State tight end Max Webster. Smith’s pick was deflected by cornerback Daylen Everette.

“We preach tips and overthrows, we’ve got to get those,” Smith said. “Wish we did a better job of punching the ball out.”

Indeed that was the first thing Smart brought up when asked about his defense afterwards.

He called Starks’ interception “a great play,” but said the other two were “luck.”

Smart said “you’re not always going to be able to rely on luck. …I can say we didn’t catch the tip balls last week and we caught the tip balls this week. We took advantage of the opportunities they gave us.”

Chambliss said coaches preach for linemen and outside linebacker to get out of the stack and good things will happen.

“I saw the ball come and there wasn’t much to do,” Chambliss said. “Just trying not to drop the ball.”

Starks dropped one last week. Not this time when he came down with it at the Georgia 22.

“Being able to high point, not misjudge the ball in the deep part of the field,” said Starks, the former Jefferson High star. “I’ve been working on it all week. I told myself I wouldn’t drop another one.”

Starks savored the sideline fun with his teammates after the interceptions.

Chambliss, who has a more reserved personality, could have done without it after his first career interception.

“Not a big rah-rah guy so I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Georgia had 12 interceptions in 15 games last season. It has four in two so far this year.

“If we continue to create turnovers and get the ball out, it will help the whole team,” inside linebacker Smael Mondon said.

Georgia held Ball State’s three quarterbacks to 18 of 37 passing for 147 yards and did it with David Daniel-Sisavanh and Dan Jackson stepping in for safety Javon Bullard who had a sprained ankle.

Bullard tied for second on the team last season with two interceptions.

There is a different level of opponent next for Georgia when SEC play starts next Saturday against South Carolina, which lost 31-17 against North Carolina in Charlotte in its opener.

“I don’t think,” Smart said, “we’ve really been tested.”

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